Whether it’s a good experience or a bad one, most of us never forget our first yoga class.
I vividly remember mine. I remember feeling excited and nervous before the class began and not quite knowing what to expect. During class, I felt confused by some of the names of the poses. (I did not know then that the teacher was saying them in sanskrit.)
Afterwards, I recall being surprised by the physical and emotional sensations that I was feeling: this was a lot more challenging than I thought it would be.
Speaking as someone who has had a lot of beginners drop into my classes over the years, I can honestly say that there are few things as rewarding to me than introducing a newbie to yoga. With that said, I wish I had the following tips and suggestions below on a flyer for brand new student or had read something like this myself.
Here are some things to keep in mind or pass on for anyone who is about to take their first yoga class:
1. Talk to the teacher before class.
Tell the teacher this is your first class rather than just say, “I’m a beginner.” Whenever I have a brand new student, I want to know if they have any injuries, ailments, etc. I also want to know what they expect from the class-i.e.: Are they looking to leave feeling relaxed? Are there certain areas they wish to stretch or work on?
I often suggest they set up their mat closer to me.
It’s also nice to have the opportunity to ask and get answers to any questions before class begins.
2. Arrive early to get a feel for the space.
Where you do yoga is important. The first time I ever set foot in a yoga studio, I spent a lot of time looking around. I also was curious about various props. (For example, when I saw a stack of bolsters, I wondered what were those weird looking cushion were for and how we were going to use them.)
Getting a lay of the land and having your mat and what ever props you need before class is a good way to minimize any distractions and keep the focus on the class.
Chances are you’re going to have a lot of questions and curiosity about the first class. Your mind may not be totally “clutter-free”, but there are ways to reduce some of that clutter and chatter.
3. Tell others around you this your first class.
Some people feel a tad self-con at the idea of doing any physical activity in front of others. When I took my first class, I would have sworn that others were looking at me and checking me out even though they probably were not.
In any case, just sharing that this is your first class may put you at ease. Yoga practitioners tend to be a welcoming bunch in general. Some may even give you helpful tips.
4. Don’t go past your limits.
You know your body better than anyone else does. You should use that knowledge rather than an instructor’s to know how far you can and cannot go.
The teacher is there to guide you, but the practice is ultimately yours and not theirs.
I was once in a class where a teacher insisted that brand new student could do reclined hero’s pose even though it was pretty clear that this man’s body could not. He was advised to ignore the pain and assured he would feel “great” the next day.
My advice to anyone who ever finds themselves in a similar situation is to run-not walk-out of that class. Clearly that is not the right instructor for you.
This leads me to #5.
5. Don’t confuse the class or instructor with yoga or assume all classes and instructors are like the one you just took.
Just like snowflakes, no two instructors or classes are alike. If this one was not what you were expecting, then do not despair. Try another before you decide yoga is not for you.
Likewise, if you love the class and instructor, then come back. You may have found “your” teacher or someone who can serve as a useful guide on your yoga journey.
In any case, it’s helpful to leave feedback to the teacher. It’s not only helpful to them, but it can also give them an idea on what to do make the experience for their next newbie as rewarding as possible. Even if they don’t say it, most yoga instructors-or at least the good ones-welcome feedback.
In closing, a first yoga class is usually a memorable experience whether you end up becoming a lifelong yogi or deciding it really isn’t your thing.
It’s impossible to know which camp you may fall into until you try it, but there are ways to make that first time as memorable as possible for all the right reasons.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons